“Properly cared for, a Savile Row suit can be handed down the generations—like gout.” Ben Schott, Jeeves and the Ki
Ever wondered why you suffer from gut issues, such as bloating and gas, arthritis or gout? It might be that your acid base balance (the balance between acids and bases) is not within the slim corridor of balance that it needs to be to support many bodily functions?
Blood pH is the most well-known pH value, however all tissues in the body have their own unique pH balance, including the skin, urine, pancreatic and cerebrospinal fluid. Blood pH has to be maintained within the narrow corridor of 7,35-7,45. Acidosis (a build up of uric acid) starts when the pH drops below 7,35, and the opposite happens when the pH goes above 7,45.
One of the functions of blood pH is to maintain a constant body temperature – if too hot we sweat and if too cold shiver to generate heat. pH also influences enzyme function which governs metabolic processes in the body, the conversion of:
- food to energy
- food to building blocks for proteins, fats and nucleic acids
- the elimination of nitrogenous wastes.
There are two main organs within the body that excrete excess acid – the kidney, which is the main organ of excretion, through urine, and the lungs as the secondary excretor of acid through exhalation of CO2. Kidney function naturally declines with age.
Gout is caused by too much uric acid in the system, mainly due to a diet of too many acidic foods and drinks (alcohol, caffeinated drinks), in combination with renal overload, which means that with time the blood pH and other metabolic processes within the body become too acidic, and start to accumulate acid as crystals in the extremities and the joints. Those that suffer from gout, which contrary to popular opinion is not just overweight, middle-aged business people, but a much broader spectrum of people, suffer from intense pain, tenderness and swelling, due to excessive inflammation.
What affects the acid-base balance?
Research is showing very strong links between the Western diet and acidosis, which in turn leads to different disease states, including gout and others already mentioned. However, to add to this, research is showing a link between Diabetes 2 and acidosis, hypertension and acidosis as well as an increase in bone osteoclast activity (bone reabsorbing cells) leading to a break down in bone density, and potentially osteoporosis.
What is a typical Western diet?
Of course, it is dangerous to generalize, however a Western diet on the whole has a high amount of acidic food ingredients, such as meat, seafood, dairy, processed meats and sugar and is low in alkaline foods – vegetables and fruit. Acid forming foods increase the renal load, which with aging becomes more difficult for the kidneys to process. Other activities that increase uric acid levels and could lead to acidosis is a high amount of sporting or athletic activity as well as on-off dieting. Lactic acid formed as a result of exercise has to be excreted through the kidneys. The more intense the activity the more lactic acid. Therefore, it is important to lessen the acidic load and increase alkalinity in the diet through foods that do not stress the renal system - vegetables, fruit and whole grains.
Looking at diet and evolution we know that pre agricultural diets or the “hunter-gatherer” diet was high in leaves, nuts, berries and game. The Paleo diet of our ancestors was high in alkaline minerals including potassium, magnesium and calcium, and animal protein only when they were successful in their hunt. They ate a variety of natural foods, probably around 150 per week. The Western diet on the other hand, has a heavy orientation to processed foods and animal protein with limited variety, leading to the death of beneficial gut bacteria, and acidosis.
Tips for alkalizing your diet and managing gout:
1. Minimise uric acid production:
- Eat a vegetable diet at lunchtime – vegetable soup, salad, hummus and crudités, or a smoothie, with a few unsalted nuts, or a piece of fruit.
- Eat meat only 2-3 times a week.
2. Increase excretion of uric acid
- Drink a minimum of 1.5 litres of water daily.
- Drink the juice of ½ freshly squeezed lemon with ½ teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda in a glass of warm water twice daily – first thing in the morning and before lunch.
3. Minimise the pain
- Drink 1-2 glasses of unsweetened cherry juice, or eat 15-20 cherries daily.
- Soak in an Epsom salt bath twice weekly for 20-30 minutes until the water starts to lose temperature.
Professor Vormann Jurgen, Ochsenham Peter - The Alkaline Solution
Dr Werner Tanya - The Vital Role of pH Balance in Chronic Disease
Pizzorno J., Frassetto LA, Katzinger J. Diet Induced acidosis: is it real and clinically relevant (2010)
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